Marjorie Black

Marjorie Black has been volunteering for about 10 years at Bozeman’s Sweet Pea Festival.

Marjorie Black has been volunteering for about 10 years at Bozeman’s Sweet Pea Festival, where she loves to paint children’s faces.

“This is just one of my joys,” Black said. “I look forward to it every year.

“Sweet Pea is sort of an oasis, an artistic, cultural oasis, in a society increasingly rife with conflict and hatred.”

The children’s activities attract hundreds of kids, eager to hammer wood scraps into sculptures, tie-dye T-shirts or get their faces painted. Usually about a dozen volunteers paint faces for hours and still there’s a line of kids waiting.

Girls often request unicorns on their cheeks, Black said. Hearts, rainbows and ladybugs are popular. Boys love tigers, Batman and pirates.

“There’s something magical about face painting for children,” Black said. “You add a touch of glitter and they leave with a sparkle in their smile. It’s so rewarding. The children are grateful. They always say, ‘Thank you.’”

Black encourages “anybody, everybody” to volunteer at this weekend’s festival, Friday through Sunday in Lindley Park. Hundreds have already volunteered, but more are always needed, said Marissa Olson, festival assistant.

Black herself isn’t an artist but an attorney. “That’s what is wonderful — it fulfills my artistic side.”

“We love her,” said Kris Olenicki, Sweet Pea’s executive director.

Black grew up in the Pittsburgh area. When her family came out West to dude ranches, she loved riding horses at the 9 Quarter Circle Ranch. After graduating from law school in 1983, she clerked for the Montana Supreme Court, worked as a water master with Judge W.W. Lessley and then went into private practice, while raising her daughter.

Working at Sweet Pea’s children’s activities is not only a change, Black said, but “a center of just — joy.”

For information about volunteering, call 586-4003, visit the website,, or the Sweet Pea office, 424 E. Main St.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

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